Latest News and Comment from Education

Monday, July 24, 2023




First of all, let's address the elephant in the room. Why are tech billionaires so eager to privatize public education? It's simple, my friends. They want to get their products into schools. But here's the catch - it's going to cost just as much to replace teachers with technology. So why go through all the trouble? The answer is simple: profit.

The strategy has been to bash teachers and their unions, claiming that public education is failing. They defund public schools slowly, causing their propaganda to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. The problem the tech billionaires had to overcome was that people love public schools and teachers. Hence the bashing. But the biggest obstacle was funding. As we all know, tech is damn expensive. We also know that almost 90% of the cost in schools is for people. So the billionaires started reducing funding to make the schools fulfill the prophecy. All the money that has been directed to voucher, charter schools, religious schools, and other private schools further drains more funds from the public system. This hasn't cost the billionaires much by their terms - they are investing in their future profits, only spending on propaganda and marketing. 

But where will the money come from to get rid of teachers? According to Adroit Market Research, the global market size of K-12 education technology was valued at $76.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $322.68 billion by 2029. This includes spending on hardware, software, infrastructure, professional development, and technical support. So it's obvious that the strategy has been to destroy public education and replace it with profitable software bots and equipment. The only choice is to allocate a hell of a lot more money or get rid of public education altogether and use the funds to pay for technology and profit.

According to a report by the U.S. Department of Education, between 1995 and 2019, the federal government spent a total of $247 billion on K-12 education technology. This includes funding for hardware, software, and professional development.

Technology can be used to automate tasks that were previously done by humans. For example, robots can be used to assemble products, and software can be used to grade papers. This can free up human workers to focus on more complex tasks like looking for a new job.

Technology can also be used to create new products and services that require fewer workers to produce. For example, online retailers can sell products without the need for a physical store, and online learning platforms can deliver educational content without the need for a classroom teacher. This can lead to a reduction in the demand for labor in some sectors of the economy.

However, there are also some challenges associated with the use of technology in the classroom. For example, not all teachers are comfortable using technology, and not all students have access to the same level of technology at home.

Overall, the use of technology in K-12 education is still evolving. However, it is clear that technology has the potential to significantly improve the quality of education or just destroy it altogether.

But let's not forget about the cost. There are a number of factors that would affect the cost of providing a state-of-the-art technological education system for every child in the United States for one year. These factors include:

  • - The number of students: There are approximately 50 million students enrolled in K-12 schools in the United States.
  • - The cost of hardware: The cost of hardware would vary depending on the type of hardware that is purchased.
  • - The cost of software: The cost of software would also vary depending on the type of software that is purchased.
  • - The cost of professional development: The cost of professional development would be needed to train teachers on how to use the technology effectively.

Based on these factors, a conservative estimate of the cost of providing a state-of-the-art technological education system for every child in the United States for one year would be $100 billion. This estimate assumes that each student would be provided with a laptop computer, a tablet, and access to a comprehensive science curriculum. It also assumes that all teachers would be required to participate in professional development on how to use the technology effectively.

So there you have it folks - the truth about K12 technology education in public schools. It's expensive, it's evolving, and it's causing billionaires to salivate at the thought of profit. But let's not forget about our beloved teachers and public schools. They may not be perfect, but they're worth fighting for. And who knows? Maybe one day we'll find a way to integrate technology into our schools without sacrificing quality education or our hard-working teachers.

Until then, let's keep laughing and learning together.




Chromebooks' built-in 'death dates' render many older models useless 

Chromebooks' built-in 'death dates'

Chromebooks are inexpensive laptops that run on Google's Chrome OS, a web-based operating system that relies on cloud services and applications. They are popular among schools and students because of their affordability, portability and ease of use. However, they also have a major drawback: they have an expiration date on which Google stops supporting the device with software updates¹.

Why do Chromebooks have an expiration date?

Google says that the expiration date, also known as the Auto Update Expiration (AUE) date, is necessary because older devices often cannot support the latest software updates, which include security patches, bug fixes and new features¹. Google also says that the updates depend on many device-specific hardware and software providers that work with Google to provide the highest level of security and stability support³.

How to find the expiration date of a Chromebook?

To find a Chromebook's end of life date, you can follow these steps¹:

  • - At the bottom right of your screen, click on the time.
  • - Select Settings.
  • - On the left panel, at the bottom, select About Chrome OS.
  • - Select Additional details.

You can also check the expiration date of any Chromebook model on this website:

What happens when a Chromebook expires?

When a Chromebook reaches its expiration date, it will no longer receive software updates from Google. This means that the device may become less secure, less stable and less compatible with newer websites and applications. Some features and functions may stop working altogether. For example, some users have reported that they cannot access Google Drive or Gmail on their expired Chromebooks³.

Google says that expired Chromebooks can still be used, but they will not provide any technical support or assistance for them. They also recommend that users back up their data and consider upgrading to a newer device¹.

What are the impacts of Chromebooks' expiration dates?

Chromebooks' expiration dates have been criticized by some consumer advocates, environmentalists and educators for creating unnecessary waste, cost and inconvenience. According to a report by the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG), doubling the lifespan of older Chromebooks would save California’s schools $225 million and prevent 350,000 pounds of e-waste².

The report also argues that there are three main reasons why even the best Chromebooks are becoming unusable for schools⁵:

Some school districts have resorted to recycling or donating their expired Chromebooks, while others have tried to extend their usability by installing alternative operating systems or applications. However, these solutions are not always feasible, effective or legal³.

What are some possible solutions or alternatives?

Some possible solutions or alternatives to address the issue of Chromebooks' expiration dates are:

  • - Google could extend the software support for older devices or provide more flexibility and transparency for users to choose when and how to update their devices.
  • - Manufacturers could design more durable, repairable and upgradable devices and provide spare parts and repair services for them.
  • - Schools could adopt more sustainable procurement policies and practices, such as buying devices with longer lifespans, leasing instead of buying devices or using open source software and hardware.
  • - Users could demand more rights and options to repair and reuse their devices, such as through legislation or advocacy.

 Bing, 7/24/2023

(1) Chromebooks Have an Expiration Date: Here's How to Find Yours | Laptop Mag.

(2) Chromebooks' built-in 'death dates' render many older models useless.

(3) Built-in software ‘death dates’ are sending thousands of schools’ Chromebooks to the recycling bin.

(4) Google accused of sabotaging Chromebooks by cutting updates.

(5) Built-in software ‘death dates’ are sending thousands of schools ....



“We’re Huge in Learning Loss!” Cashing in on the Post-Pandemic Education Crisis.

by Alec MacGillis

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for The Big Story newsletter to receive stories like this one in your inbox.

For the nation’s schoolchildren, the data on pandemic learning loss is relentlessly bleak, with education researchers and economists warning that, unless dramatic action is taken, students will suffer a lifelong drop in income as a result of lagging achievement. “This cohort of students is going to be punished throughout their lifetime,” noted Eric Hanushek, the Stanford economist who did the income study, in ProPublica’s recent examination of the struggle to make up for what students missed out on during the era of remote learning.

For the burgeoning education technology sector, however, the crisis has proven a glimmering business opportunity, as a visit to the industry’s annual convention revealed. The federal government has committed $190 billion in pandemic recovery funds to school districts since 2020, and education technology sales people have been eagerly making the case that their products are just what students and teachers need to make up lost ground.

“We’re huge in learning loss,” said Dan DiDesiderio, a Pittsburgh-area account manager for Renaissance Learning, a top seller of educational software and assessments. He was talking up his company’s offerings in the giant exposition hall of the Philadelphia Convention Center, where dozens of other vendors and thousands of educators gathered for three days late last month at the confab of the International Society for Technology in Education. For DiDesiderio, who was a school administrator before joining Renaissance, this meant explaining how schools have been relying on Renaissance products to help students get back on track. “During COVID, we did see an increase across the board,” he said.

Renaissance is far from the only player in the ed tech industry that is benefiting from the surge in federal funding, and the industry enjoyed a huge wave of private funding as the federal tap opened: The annual total of venture capital investments in ed tech companies rose from $5.4 billion to $16.8 billion between 2019 and 2021 before tailing off.

The largest chunk of the federal largess, $122 billion that was included in the American Rescue Plan signed by President Joe Biden in March 2021, requires that schools put at least 20% toward battling learning loss, and companies are making the case that schools should spend the money on their products, in addition to intensive tutoring, extended-day programs and other remedies. “The pandemic has created a once-in-a-lifetime economic opportunity for early stage companies to reach an eager customer base,” declared Anne Lee Skates, a partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, in a recent article. (Her firm has invested in ed tech companies.) The federal funds “are the largest one-time infusion of funds in education from the federal government with almost no strings attached.”

Five days before the convention, the National Center for Education Statistics had released the latest devastating numbers: The decline in math scores for 13-year-olds between the 2019-20 and 2022-23 school years was the largest on record, and for the lowest-performing students, reading scores were lower than they were the first time data was collected in 1971.

But the mood was festive in Philadelphia. The educators in attendance, whose conference costs are generally covered by their district’s professional development funds, were excited to try out the new wave of nifty gadgets made possible by the advances in artificial intelligence and virtual reality. “For a lot of us, it’s like coming to Disneyland,” said one teacher from Alabama.

One could also detect the slightly urgent giddiness of a big bash in its final stages. Schools need to spend most of their recovery funds by 2024, and many have already allocated much of that money, meaning that this golden opportunity would soon close. And summer is the main buying season, with the fiscal year starting July 1 and with educators wanting their new tools delivered in time for school to start in the fall.

Hanging over the proceedings was an undeniable irony: The extent of learning loss was closely correlated to the amount of time that students had spent doing remote learning, on a screen, rather than receiving direct instruction, and here companies were offering more screen-based instruction as the remedy. Few of the companies on hand were proposing to replace the classroom experience entirely with virtual instruction, but to the degree that their offerings recalled the year-plus of Zoom school, it could be a bit awkward. “A lot of people don’t like us, because we can do remote-school stuff,” said Michael Linacre, a salesperson for StarBoard Solution, before demonstrating one of the cool things a StarBoard whiteboard could do: He jotted 1+2= with his finger and up popped 3. “There’s a mixed feeling about that now.”

Most of the vendors were not about to let that awkwardness get in their way, though, as they cajoled teachers to listen to their pitch, often with the lure of free swag.

“I love the shirt — I’m a huge ’N Sync fan,” said a library technology specialist from a New Jersey elementary school at the booth for BrainPOP, a group of educational animation websites whose display included a T-shirt that nodded to the 1990s boy band. The vendor praised the teacher for getting the reference — the union guys setting up the expo had totally missed it, he said — and told her that all one had to do to get one of the shirts was attend one of several pitch sessions during the day. “Students who use BrainPOP two or more times a month show measurable gains toward grade-level proficiency,” asserted a large poster listing the various sessions.

Nearby, a Microsoft salesperson named Mike had a full audience sitting on white settees arrayed in his zone as he launched into his demonstration of the company’s new AI tools for helping kids learn to read aloud. He showed how a program called Reading Coach captured video of a student reading a passage aloud and flagged mispronunciations, with an automated voice declaring, “These words were the most challenging for you.” There were even more features in the offing, Mike said; the program would soon produce comprehension questions to ask about whatever passage the teacher gave the students to read, and it would soon be able to gauge students’ level of expressiveness, too.

One might wonder what all this would leave to the actual teacher, but Mike assured the audience that Reading Coach would simply allow educators to focus on other tasks. “It’s a time saver,” he said.

In fact, education technology is replacing teachers in another sense: A large share of the vendors on hand were themselves former educators who had left the classroom for jobs with tech companies, where they could still feel like they were involved in education, but without the stresses of the classroom and often with higher pay. One former first grade teacher who had made this transition herself two years ago said she had seen the trend accelerate among her colleagues during the pandemic, when the challenges of juggling hybrid online and in-person instruction and managing students who were struggling with learning loss and delayed socialization had made jobs in ed tech seem especially alluring.

Remote learning “flipped the field on its head,” she said. “We were getting a lot more responsibilities than before, a lot more hours, a lot more stress.” At the first of the two ed tech companies she has worked for, she said, “almost everyone was an ex-teacher hired the past couple years. Ed tech is a good space for teachers to go to: It’s a corporate job, but they respect the skills that teachers have.”

Knowing that the ed tech sector was not only seeking a large share of federal recovery funds for schools but also playing a role in the teacher shortage gave the proceedings an extra edge. The profusion of inventively named vendors was overwhelming: Beanstack, Impero, Bluum, Archangel, Teq, Ozobot, Nuiteq, Vivacity, Figma. Kami and Hāpara sounded more like Ikea furniture, but no, they were here, too.

Among the rookie attendees wandering the hall was Joseph Tey, a Stanford computer science major. He was there with a classmate to ask teachers how they felt about the rise of AI. Were they worried about students cheating? Were they going to incorporate AI into their instruction? “Tech adoption in education is tough,” Tey said. “Do you adopt something only when the fire is under your ass? COVID was one fire. This is another fire.”

The COVID-19 fire had been great for one vendor, Wakelet, a website that allows users to pull together videos, images and text files into a single webpage, for use by individuals who want to to promote a resume or body of work or by teachers seeking to present information on a given subject. Its use by teachers had boomed during remote learning, said co-founder Rick Butterworth. “The pandemic was really a benefit for us because we had so many users who came on board,” he said. “2020 was an interesting year for us.” The site has been free to use, with the company funded for several years by angel investors, he said, but it was now about to start offering tiered paid plans for schools, ranging up to $6,000 per year. Among the features available to paying customers: “bespoke professional development.”

Across the aisle, a vendor named Whitney, a former elementary school librarian, was corralling passersby for her next pitch session for MackinMaker. “Have a seat! We’re about to have a demo. It’s really fun. Just fill out the card for the giveaway.” The giveaways were T-shirts that were waiting on each chair.

“It’s all about the giveaway,” said one teacher, with gentle sarcasm, as she took her seat.

Whitney gave her pitch for MackinMaker’s online e-book marketplace. After she was done, her colleague Ethan told the teachers, “If you need a different size T-shirt, let us know.”

Luring teachers into pitches was easiest at the various sellers of virtual reality headsets, some of which had long lines of educators waiting their turn. I tried a headset from ClassVR that was playing virtual reality programs from Eduverse. The first scene was a pastoral landscape of fields and stone walls whose context was unclear until the vendor explained that it was a scene from the Civil War. She clicked over to another of Eduverse’s 500-odd options, this one featuring men building railroads in the 19th century, where I accidentally got myself hit in the head, virtually, by a sledgehammer.

Schools could buy eight of the headsets for $4,299, or 30 for $16,999, the vendor said. Sales in recent years had been “amazing, in terms of rapid growth.”

The afternoon of the convention’s opening day was wearing on, and the conference tote bags were already getting overstuffed with all the free swag. Conveniently, Kahoot (an Oslo-based operation with the slogan “Make learning awesome”) was giving out tote bags as prizes for those who won in demonstrations of its AI-generated quiz games. I participated in a game with questions about the Fourth of July and was frustrated to accidentally input the wrong answer on my smartphone in response to a question about the size of the U.S. population in 1776. (The correct answer was 2.5 million.)

The Kahoot vendor handed out the three tote bags to the victorious educators, who would have two more days of conventioneering to fill them up. “Did you learn something about Independence Day?” she said.

A few weeks later came a reminder that the stakes for the ed tech sector went far beyond tote bags and T-shirts: Kahoot announced that a group led by Goldman Sachs’ private equity division was buying it for $1.7 billion.

Education Tech Companies Cash in on Post-Pandemic Crisis — ProPublica